Although the majority of Carlson School classes incorporate ethics and corporate social responsibility, there has not been an entire course devoted to these topics. Beginning this fall, however, Management 1005–Corporate Responsibility and Ethics will be a required class for all incoming freshmen.
This three-credit course came about from the findings of a project team led by former Undergraduate Program Associate Dean Robert Ruekert. “This was one of Bob’s many legacies that have enriched the school,” says Professor Ian Maitland, the current Undergradate Program associate dean and another member of the project team. “Bob took on the chairmanship of the committee and steered it into the harbor.”
Along with other team members, including Senior Lecturer Anne Cohen, Professors Kevin Linderman and Judy Rayburn, and student Carolyn Watkins, Ruekert and Maitland consulted with faculty, Undergraduate Advisory Board members, and students about how to strengthen the ethics and corporate social responsibility coverage in the Carlson School’s curriculum.
To see how the class would work, Maitland taught a pilot section for the spring 2013 semester. “I couldn’t be happier with what I got out of it,” says freshman Colin Scott, who enrolled in the class due to his interest in law and ethics. “I found the structure that Professor Maitland used to be very helpful in learning the material, but especially in connecting course material to the real world. We looked at a wide variety of real-world cases and had to apply our knowledge to those situations through exams, presentations, and discussions.”
Three sections of Management 1005 are planned for fall 2013 and eight for spring 2014. Maitland says he sees the class strengthening the Carlson School identity of freshman. “Right off the bat they will take Management 1001–Contemporary Management as a cohort in the fall, followed by ethics in the spring, also as a cohort,” he says. “This uniform experience builds, to some extent, on the success of Immersion-Core in the sophomore year. I-Core, besides comprising key tool classes, functions as a sort of crucible in which the Carlson School identity of the students is shaped.”
Maitland adds that the committee that recommended Management 1005 also envisioned there would eventually be elective courses in departments addressing ethical issues in finance, marketing, and other disciplines. “Management 1005 is intended to provide a foundation for such specialized classes in ethics,” he says.
What can students expect from Management 1005? “The idea is to align the class with what students might encounter in their careers,” Maitland says. “We will use cases as a tool for simulating dilemmas. The only departure is that the cases are ones that have garnered substantial media coverage or which emphasize more colorful and dramatic aspects over humdrum ones. The fundamental goal remains the same—to get students to reflect on what is right and wrong in a business context.”
A big take-away from this class, then, is the toolbox it gives students for analyzing moral issues. “Moral issues are susceptible to rational analysis and discussion, and there are reasons why some actions are condemned and others encouraged,” Maitland says. “So the class affords an opportunity for digging beneath the surface and trying to discern why the rules are what they are.”
The bottom line is that businesses are now under scrutiny as never before, and students need to be prepared for this environment. “Today, the public increasingly sees CEOs as ‘chief ethics officers,’” Maitland says. “Navigating this treacherous environment is part of a manager’s job description. Long gone are the days when a class in business ethics could be seen as a luxury or peripheral to the main concerns of a B-school.”